How would you fancy a trip around the world – 12 countries, 24 destinations in 12 months?

No, I’m not giving one away, don’t get too excited.

I’ve always loved writing and travelling so I look up to someone who does both. “Look up” means admire, get occasionally jealous and then dream and  travel vicariously through them. I first “met” travel writer Lara Dunston online through my blog way back in 2008. I think she commented that I’ve featured one of hers and her husband’s (Terence Carter) books in my website (in an Amazon ad).

Lara and Terry are husband and wife writing duo who has travelled around the world writing guidebooks. They’re the “you name it, we’ve been there” couple. Recently, they grabbed a prestigious project called Gran Tourismo.

It is really grand.

From the website:

In 2010, globetrotting travel writers Terence Carter and Lara Dunston, with the support of HomeAway Holiday-Rentals, will swap hotel rooms for holiday homes and embark on a contemporary grand tour of sorts they’re calling Grantourismo. Their aim is to slow down, learn and do things, live like locals, and give something back to the places they visit, as they search for a more authentic and enriching way to travel.

Their first home away from home is a swish 5-bedroom villa located in Palm Jumeirah. Lara and Terry held a launch party of sorts and invited me over last Saturday!

In case you don’t know what or how the Palm Jumeirah looks like, here it is (it can be seen from space):

palm  jumeirah

So about the party – it’s a bit of a challenge to write all about it, post all the worthy photos and describe it. First off, a tour of the villa. How would you like to wake up to a refreshing sight of emerald green waters, powder white sand and the sound of the lapping waves?

frond shoreline

 This is the back side of the villa where you can get access to the beach, 365 days a year.

back of the villa

Go down that stairs and land your feet in the sand, in the above photo.

feet in sand

If it wasn’t too cold that afternoon, I would’ve dipped my feet in the water. I wore a short dress to do that but Dubai’s weather had been a little crazy these days and we have cold winds and gray skies. Look!

back pool at dusk

The villa had 5 bedrooms.

Bedroom #1

Bedroom #1

Bedroom #2

Bedroom #2

Bedroom #3

Bedroom #3

Bedroom #4

Bedroom #4

Somehow I missed to take a photo of Bedroom #5 because I was busy talking to the Bangladeshi housekeeper Azim and telling him how nice his job is. Sometimes he has the house to himself (when there’s no holiday renters)!

Living room

Living room

The living room faces the sea shore. The line of houses you can see here are the villas in Frond D.

after dark

One thing interesting about the sea water between the fronds is that when the man-made island Palm Jumeirah’s fronds were made, the sea was reclaimed but a few meters from the private beach shore, the water level is kept as is. It is about 8 meters deep (you can see the difference from the color).

So a word of advice, it’s not a good idea to swim across if your boyfriend lives on the opposite side.

Back to the party, Lara and Terry served Arabic themed canapes and cocktail drinks, which the guests dined with gusto.



There were only a few guests, maybe less than 20 people, including Lara and Terry. I’ve heard that it is not permitted to have huge parties at the Palm, especially when it goes well beyond the sleeping time of the neighbors. The sounds, laughter and conversations can reverberate to the ends of the opposite frond!

terry with guests outside

It was cold, really cold – I’m not exagerrating. It’s not because a desert dweller like me feels cold easily so don’t judge. It must be less than 15C that night. Not cold for you? Okay, maybe we were all under-dressed then!


me with baby sophie

The guests by the way were associated with Lara and Terry through their blogs and Twitter. Maybe some personal friends. Then a couple came with a baby girl…and I felt weak in my knees. I am not good around babies, help! Of course I had to snatch it away from the mom! But don’t worry I said, “please” and most importantly, I returned her back. LOL!

It was nice seeing some familiar people I’ve known in Twitter – but next time, it would be better to have name tags with their Twitter names and avatars in it!

I didn’t go out much because of the cold as I’ve just got back to my feet after a terrible flu with monstrous cough last week. I didn’t want to get sick again. So what did I do? I was disturbing Lara and Terry in the warm and cozy kitchen.

lara terry and me in kitchen

lara and me in the kitchen

It’s amazing how this couple prepared everything by themselves, from food to drinks! I luuurve the big kitchen. It’s about 5 times as big as what I have right now (mine’s abnormally small though if you put it in a different perspective). We’ll move to a normal sized kitchen on Friday, btw.

Ok, moving on…

Lara and Terry hosted the party to launch the Gran Tourismo project. Dubai is the first leg of their 12 coutnries-24 destinations-1 year trip. Next stop for them is London, then Marrakesh, Morocco and I forgot the rest. I was too starry eyed.

Since I can’t get into their suitcases (they’ll be charged a hefty fine for excess baggage) if I did so I’d be cheering for them from far. And you should too, follow their adventures in the Gran Tourismo blog or on Twitter (@gran_tourismo, @laradunston, @terencecarter)

 Safe travels to Lara and Terry!


  1. Hi Grace – thanks for the lovely blog post and for coming to a little Grantourismo pre-launch party! It was so nice to meet so many people in the flesh whom I’ve ‘known’ for so long via the blogosphere and Twitter, as well as to catch up with old friends, like Asher and Annette whose baby you borrowed – and thankfully returned! You thought it was cold the other night, you should feel the temperatures in London now – eek! – it was 2 degrees this morning! x
    .-= lara dunston´s last blog ..Grantourismo & how we came to be going on a grand tour in 2010 =-.



  2. Oh dear lord….That right there is seriously my dream come true-I am so envious of those two! And you as well for being invited to their amazing party 😀
    Wow. I’m definitely going to follow them and their adventures and see if some of their travel magic will rub off on me!
    Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!
    .-= Kayla´s last blog ..Small Talk Six(2/6)-Pretty in Pink =-.



  3. I would SO love to have THAT job! I have always wanted to travel around the world. The villa is gorgeous and I am so jealous that you got to go to that party! But if it couldn’t have been me, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person… YOU!
    You got some awesome shots of the villa – they look like the ones on Lara and Terry’s site – beautiful!
    BTW, I LOVE your shoes… 🙂
    .-= Lorie Shewbridge´s last blog ..Disney Social Media Moms Conference – Recap Day 1 =-.



  4. i saw that baby in the queue behind me at Carrefour Mall of the Emirates.

    She looked very familiar and I couldn’t figure out why and now i do! HAHA!



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